Reflections of a Web Summit Journey – Lisbon 2018



“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 

Rick Ridgeway from Patagonia recited these very words to a standing ovation at this year’s Web Summit in Lisbon. In the midst of the worlds leading businessmen and women all trying so very hard to hold back tears of pure emotion, I realized that I was living ‘my plan’. Even though my plan has come with a mountain of challenges, as most startups do, I was surprisingly doing what Rick urged everyone in the audience to do – in his heartfelt talk ‘We Need More Responsible Entrepreneurs’. Rick called on entrepreneurs across the world to focus solely on their environmental practices – because as was highlighted in another talk – we have 12 years to save the planet. 

This was my first year attending the Web Summit, entering with the title ‘Woman in Tech’. I have spent the past twelve months in a high intensity, university-led, incubation center for startups (Ignite UCC) – focusing on AnimaVenture.

AnimaVenture is a story game application that invites the reader to become a co-author through embarking on meditative, dreamtime journeys through natures many kingdoms and the cosmos. The story game comes with an educational solution teaching skills in creativity, innovation, and wellbeing – motivating young people to ‘imagine, create and collaborate’ on behalf of the environment, together.

Given the sheer size of the summit – it would be possible to have infinite experiences and therefore infinite opinions – however, as I followed my flow from talk to talk and day to day I was surprised and reassured by how similar the core message of the speakers were. 

Investing in sustainable companies arose time and time again with Andrew Beebe from obvious ventures declaring that “companies driven by purpose are what we predict will be around in 10 years time”. Pia Heidenmark Cook from IKEA shared how IKEA (annual turnover of 35billion) is one of the worlds largest private investors in renewable energy, understanding that consumers increasingly want to stand up for what they believe in and seek out brands that share their values. This echoed Rick Ridgeways talk when he said that it’s a whole lot harder to get into Patagonia than it is to get into Harvard – as employees are seeking companies that align with their core values and vision. Jager McConnell (Crunchbase) also spoke strongly to this stating that millennials want their work to have purpose and meaning as all research on happiness shows that if you are doing a good thing it makes you happy.

The reason why the tide is turning so powerfully towards sustainability and purpose-driven business was continuously highlighted with shocking statistics such as; 

  • Plastic is becoming embedded in our natural systems and mixing with our food. We are now consuming plastic on a daily basis, which is being proven to be directly linked to cancer, diabetes, and other major illnesses. 
  • The ocean provides 70% of our breathable oxygen – it is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. 
  • The worldwide recycling rate is only 9% meaning the majority of our waste goes to landfill and sea.

However even in the midst of such shock and shame at how much we have destroyed our ‘one and precious planet’ I never once felt overwhelmed. Hearing the worlds business leaders commit to exponential change offered a much-needed ray of hope.  Christiana Figueres (the Paris Climate accord) encapsulated the mood perfectly when she stated – “we are creating a completely new world.. we are all witnessing the deepest transformation of society.. it is incredibly exciting.”

Innovations such as Tipa sustainable packaging which bio-degrades within six months and can be reintroduced to our system as organic waste added to this sense of security that a sustainable future is within reach. 

The movement toward meditation and wellbeing was another highlight of this years summit and like sustainability is an area of particular interest to me, as meditation forms the foundation of my dreamtime journeys through nature. During the AnimaVenture dreamtime journeys, users are guided into the depths of their imagination – with the mission of accessing ideas for planetary health and restoration. Listening to Alex Tew and Michael Acton the co-founders of Calm, at their talk ‘A Calm Mind is a Creative mind’ reminded me just how helpful AnimaVenture will be in teaching skills in creativity and innovation.

I also felt reasured that AnimaVenture can become a sustainable, even thriving business, with the abitlity to effect postive change in the long term when Alex spoke about how the health and wellness industry is booming over the past four years and is now a four trillion dollar industry. Calm are generating over 80 million dollars a year and Alex believes that this is just the beginning of the wave, that any company coming into this space now are entering at the perfect time. Most people now know that meditation greatly benefits your mental health and wellbeing, science has proven this – so there is no longer a need to educate. It was refreshing to hear how this is such an exciting space as “there is nothing more important than looking after your mental health”.

For my master’s thesis, I researched flow states as part of the underlying theory of AnimaVenture. Flow states were spoken to numerous times during the summit specifically on how meditation brings us into flow states, and when in flow states we find it easy to access our creativity. I was surprised by many of the facts that arose around creativity and sleep, that I hadn’t yet come across yet, given this is my area of interest. For example how Sergio Bin came up with the original idea for Google in a dream. How Monet would take naps to access his creativity and how Thomas Edison had a bed in his office so that he could take naps during the day. I realized that the most inspired minds in the world were accessing their ideas in a similar way to what AnimaVenture dreamtime journeys offer. 

It has taken a while since coming back from the web summit to integrate all that I learned, experienced and observed, inspirational advice from Sean Rad the founder of Tinder on how mistakes are exciting and obstacles are opportunities for growth to remembering that Christian Kroll from Ecosia has planted a tree for me – adding to his already 40 million trees. 

But what has really stuck with me goes back to the words of Rick Ridgeway from Patagonia “It’s not about the summit, it’s about the footsteps and the way you get there … your business needs to have a purpose .. a purpose bigger than yourself!”

I’ll finish in the same fashion as the circular economy and in the same grace as Rick Ridgeway and ask – 

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Thanks for reading.


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